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Rights at stake for Texas employees

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – The civil rights of an employee have been a growing issue since the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC. These rights of Texas employees were given a bad blow this May. I think you should know about it. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

The front page of this week's Dallas Business Journal contains a very disturbing article concerning racial discrimination in the workplace. It's been on the rise since September 11th. According to the EEOC, as of May 29th Texas ranked number one in complaints totaling 68. In researching this article, I decided to call Austin-based Texas Watch, a non-profit advocacy organization. They work on two main but broad issues: issuance company accountability and consumer protection. Employee protection comes under consumer protection.

Dan Lambe, executive director for Texas Watch, alarmed me that Texas employees who feel they've been discriminated against for any reason will now have a much more difficult time pursuing their case. It stems from a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court upholding a policy set in place by Dallas-based Halliburton.

Here's how the case went. "Halliburton issued a new policy concerning a Dispute Resolution Program which forced employment disputes to arbitration." Employees had only two options: agree to the new program or leave the company. This meant any employee dispute or claim of discrimination could NOT be filed in a civil court, but instead must go to an arbitration panel selected and paid for by the company. So if any of the thousands of Halliburton employees feel they have a good case against the company and would like to present this case before a jury of his peers, forget it.

With this Texas Supreme Court ruling, more and more companies will be sliding in this policy. I agree with Lambe. It's a mockery of our justice system and a "lose-lose situation" for the Texas worker. For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.